Cross-party committee will look at issues from retail relations to the impact on consumers

The Efra Committee is preparing to take evidence as it seeks to establish how resilient the UK’s supply chain is.

The committee will hear from a range of expert witnesses

The committee will hear from a range of expert witnesses

On the back of two years of high inflation, exacerbated by the pandemic and war in Ukraine, there has been huge strain on food suppliers and their relationships with retail customers. 

In an evidence session on Tuesday 14 November, the Efra Committee will examine how the UK’s food supply chain operates, the market power of supermarkets and manufacturers in the food supply chain, and the relationship between food production costs and food and retail prices.

MPs will also examine whether the structure of the food supply chain creates an expectation of cheap food.

Impact on consumers

It will be the cross-party committee’s first evidence session as part of its inquiry into the UK’s food supply chain. The inquiry is investigating how profitability and risks are shared through the food supply chain and it is examining the impact of external factors, such as imported food and global commodity prices, on the supply chain.

The hearing will focus on the impact on consumers, how well they are served by the current structure of the UK’s food supply chain and how well the interests of consumers and suppliers are currently balanced. MPs will examine what steps could be taken to promote fairness and redress any existing imbalances.

The Efra Committee will interrogate whether the rising cost of living has resulted in a deterioration in people’s food purchasing habits, considering whether increased food costs exacerbate existing health disparities.

MPs will evaluate what mechanisms the government could put in place to help consumers in the event of future shocks to the food supply chain and will look at how the just-in-time nature of the supply chain affects its ability to withstand unforeseen disruptions.

The committee will also examine what the advantages and disadvantages are of the current structure of the UK’s food supply chain for supermarkets and question witnesses on whether loyalty card prices on food offered by some supermarkets benefit consumers and how they impact people’s access to affordable and nutritious food.

Witnesses during the session are split into two panels. The first features Dr Carrie Bradshaw, lecturer in law at the University of Leeds and member of the Global Food and Environment Institute, and Vicki Hird, strategic lead on agriculture at The Wildlife Trust and former head of sustainable farming at Sustain.

The second panel includes Sue Davies, head of consumer rights and food policy at Which?, Professor Charlotte Hardman, professor of psychology of eating behaviour at the University of Liverpool, and Dr Francesca Pontin, research data scientist at the Consumer Data Research Centre at the University of Leeds.